Finding Family

December 3, 2010 § 1 Comment

With the last post published (see Conroy & Coakley) I had intended to take a break from active research and blogging, and to focus on the holiday season, my family, and some other similar things. However, as it turns out, it seems there was a little more work to do, and new discoveries to report. Hopefully this will be it for the year.

Near the beginning of November I had sent away for a death certificate for a certain Evelyn Harney, the daughter in-law of my great-grand aunt, Ellen Conroy. I had one main goal in doing this and that was to attempt to discover the name of a potentially living relative whom I might contact. In a  death certificate the person listed as the informant, or the individual providing personal details about the deceased, is usually a family member, or next of kin. Evelyn’s husband, Thomas Harney, had passed away a few years earlier, but if I had requested his death certificate it was likely that Evelyn herself would be listed as the informant, not one of their children. Hence, going after the spouse who dies second holds the most promise for a name. In the event that no informant is listed, or it is a name that does not seem familiar, the next best thing is to have the place where they were buried listed. If that should occur you can then contact the cemetery directly and get information regarding who is buried as well as any details on plot ownership, which often includes the name and address of the next of kin.

In my case I got lucky, and sure enough, the name of Evelyn and Thomas’ daughter was listed, only now a married woman herself. It would also be revealed that the Conroy/Harney clan had continued to call Newton, Massachusetts their home for several generations. In addition, Evelyn’s parents’ names were listed and I have been able to already start making significant connections in my research regarding them, including a bombshell of a discovery I will mention later.

As for contacting Evelyn’s daughter I believe her to still be living and I have even found references to her own offspring and their families online. I intend to write her a letter and I hope to hear back. I can only hope that my communication will be received positively. It would be amazing to be able to establish a connection with living family members in my home state, and indeed a town in which I worked for a while.

US Census showing the Coole family, with Evelyn and her brother Simeon.

Evelyn’s maiden name was Coole and it appears that her family hailed from Newfoundland, Canada. I have managed to discover more than one individual with related family trees on, and in the process of viewing those I made a startling discovery. Evelyn had a brother name Simeon, after their father, who apparently lived and died in Littleton, Massachusetts, the very town in which I was raised. In fact, he was even living there while I was kid, going to school and growing up. I think he may have married but I haven’t conformed that yet. It is simply stunning to me to find this out. He is for sure a distant relative, but a connection can still be made. All the same it is quite exciting. We’ll have to see what comes from it….

In the meantime, I now turn my attention to the holidays and the end of the year. With the coming new year I plan to get going with another of my passions, beekeeping. But, rest assured, a Junkie can never stay away too long, and I’m sure I’ll have more to report soon enough. I also hope to get some of the other pages on the blog finished, such as the resources and research focus areas. Until then, Happy Holidays.


Conroy & Coakley

December 1, 2010 § 5 Comments

I do not recall when I first discovered that there might be another Conroy sister, this time named Catherine after her mother, but it wasn’t until I found her listed in an online family tree that I began to look into the details of her life more closely. Thanks to, I would not only learn more about her in a single day but I would even meet a third cousin, and in the process learn about a story of untimely death and mystery.

Catherine was born in March of 1881 very close in age to her brother James and her sister Sarah, in Coen, Co. Laois. She immigrated in 1901 and lived in Newton, Massachusetts where her two sisters, Ellen and Sarah, and her brother James would also reside for a time. Then in 1907, Catherine married a man named Thomas Mulvey Coakley of Irish ancestry but born in Germany. The marriage occurred in Newton and was most likely held at the same church in which both Ellen and Sarah would be married, as the priest listed in their marriage record is the same who conducted at least one of the other marriages.

The Coakley family then moved to Lynn, Massachusetts where Thomas worked as an electrician at a local General Electric (GE) plant. Catherine continued as a homemaker, and soon then had a son, Henry added to their family. What happens next in their history is both startling and sad, and the story of it would come to me from my research on

Through an online family tree I have met a descendent of the Coakley family who has been very gracious with providing me not only details of the Coakley story, but also records. Thomas Coakley was working at the GE plant, just like he did any day, when he was killed in a freak accident that made the front page news of the local Lynn paper. The headline read, “Employee Electrocuted by 15,000 Volts at G.E. Plant,” and gave an account of what had happened. Thomas had apparently wandered into a building called a “resistance house” that was labeled with warnings threatening of high levels of electricity. He was discovered later, a half eaten apple near his body, by workers who had noticed him missing who thought that perhaps he had wandered off to sneak a smoke. The body was “burned almost beyond recognition, and his clothes reduced to shreds.” The accident was certainly very sad, but the family believed there was more to it than what was being portrayed.

Thomas apparently had a sum of money in his coat pocket, almost $4,000 that had been neatly cut from his coat at some point after his death. The family has claimed he was murdered, but perhaps the money was simply discovered by the same men who found his body, and when the money was discovered a crime of opportunity transpired. However, the story does carry an element of mystery to it. First of all, what GE worker would basically hide in such a dangerous place just to eat an apple? And who, in 1919, snuck around to smoke? No one, that’s who. So it is, indeed, a bizarre tale.

Catherine then moves with the children to Saugus, MA., just a short distance from Lynn, where they live for the next few decades. It is interesting to note that in the 1920 and 1930 census returns neither Catherine nor her children seem to have any occupation, which makes me wonder how, as a widow, she was able to support her children. Sadly, Catherine would pass away just a few months after the 1930 census was taken.

It has been quite interesting learning so much information in such a short time about someone whom I had previously known so little. Very special thanks to Kathy for sharing so much of the story with me.

Thomas Coakley on left next to Catherine Conroy-Coakley and some of their children, 1914.



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